There’s a Saying in Gaelic, “Céad Míle Fáilte”…

Walls for the wind, 
And a roof for the rain,
And drinks beside the fire

Laughter to cheer you
And those you love near you,
And all that your heart may desire!

– Irish Blessing

In many ways, it was like a scene right out of a movie. We had entered into a small local pub, tired and hungry from a long day of traveling in the cold, rainy winds of an Irish November. We had stumbled blindly through the dark, a five-minute walk from our hotel along a narrow, winding road set amidst rolling hills.

There were just two other people in the pub, visitors, like us, evidenced by the large, worn backpacks towering next to their table. The bartender greeted us warmly and we asked if he had a menu for food.

“We do, but the kitchen is about to close,” he said. “We only have homemade beef stew and seafood chowder.” We ordered one of each, two pints of Guinness and sat down at a tableside fire for what was to be one of the most memorable stops on our two-week long journey.

Doolin accomodation
Inside McGann’s, Doolin’s local pub

Situated on the west coast of Ireland, and nestled just a sort distance from the Cliffs of Moher – Ireland’s most visited natural attraction – Doolin has become world renowned for its traditional Irish music, attracting thousands of international visitors each year. A seaside village with a population of just 500 people, its rustic landscape makes for a cozy, tranquil getaway, particularly in the off season, and even in the harsh, whipping winds of winter.

But, one needn’t be there long to fully understand its appeal. Its most distinguishing feature can be found by stepping foot in a local shop, restaurant, hotel or pub – as we did into McGann’s that first night (and as we would again for the following two nights) – and witnessing a most authentic display of Irish hospitality that seems to reveal itself more naturally in the Irish countryside.

Indeed, having arrived in Doolin after spending three days in Dublin, we were reminded of what some might call a universal principle of traveling: that the most authentic experiences are often found not in the lights and glamour of a city center, but in rural encounters with lifelong natives whose customs and behaviors portray a more accurate reflection of the people and character of a country.

Hotel Doolin
Fisher Street i.e. “Main Street” in Doolin

There was no one defining moment, however, that formed such a lasting, memorable impression of Doolin; no grand, sweeping gestures or calls of attention to the benevolent. In fact, the beauty of Irish hospitality was more in its subtlety and humility than it was in any specific act itself.

It was the bartender who introduced himself with a smile, took an interest in who we were, informed us of local happenings – i.e., that there was a “concert” at our hotel later that night – and suggested pubs for us to visit in Edinburgh, the next stop on our trip.

It was the two local men, standing outside the pub as we left, who excitedly shouted out, “See you at the concert!”, as we headed back up the winding road to our hotel.

Irish music doolin
The “concert” at Hotel Doolin

It was the palpable sense of camaraderie among a group of people in Hotel Doolin listening to local musicians play some of the best Irish music I’ve ever heard.

It was the local group of young friends who engaged us in a conversation – playfully challenging us to spell different Irish names – and invited us to meet them at McGann’s the following night for a dart tournament.

It was our shuttle driver who asked us about our lives, offered us tips on where to begin our hike, and made us laugh with his quick Irish wit as he sped over the hills to drop us at the bottom of the trail.

And it was the hotel staff who presented us with a freshly baked loaf of bread upon our early morning departure, knowing that we would be traveling all day.

They were small, thoughtful acts that not only confirmed the truth behind what has long been heralded as one of the Irish’s most venerated traditions,* but also reminded me of man’s yearning to feel welcomed and comforted, acknowledged and appreciated, by fellow man, no matter where we may find ourselves on life’s journey.

Doolin pubs

Washington Irving once wrote, “there is an emanation from the heart in genuine hospitality which cannot be described, but is immediately felt and puts the stranger at once at his ease.”

Nearly 3,000 miles from home, hailing from the disparate world of New York City, the people of Doolin had every right to consider me a stranger – an “American” or a “GDY” (God Damn Yank), as our Irish bus driver told us jokingly.

But, as much of a stranger as I was to them – and as much as the people of Doolin were “strangers” to me – I have never felt more at ease than I did during those three short days of my visit. Their genuine hospitality, exhibited in the most humble of manners – a warm welcome, a genuine smile, a thoughtful question, a deliberate acknowledgement – was enough to replenish and restore my soul, fulfilling the mission of my two-week long European adventure.

There’s a saying in Gaelic, “Céad Míle Fáilte.” Its literal translation is “one hundred thousand welcomes”, or “you are welcome, a thousand times, wherever you come from, whosoever you be.”

If ever there was a place to experience authentic Irish hospitality, to offer whosoever you be a thousand welcomes, Doolin – a village of just 500 people – must be it.

Please note: this piece was also published in The Huffington Post.

Doolin accomodation

*In ancient Ireland, hospitality was mandated by law via the Brehon Laws, which contained rules such as, “Whoever comes to your door, you must feed him or care for him, with no questions asked” and “All members of the tribe are required to offer hospitality to strangers.”

*Galway, just 45 miles northeast of Doolin, was named Travel + Leisure’s 2015 “friendliest city in the world.”

A Weary Traveler, a Pint of Guinness and a Pot of Stew

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings*

Hotel Doolin
“Doolin Ale”

We arrived at the little inn in the tiny village of Doolin*, near the Cliffs of Moher, in the thick darkness of late evening, weary and hungry from traveling all day in the cold, rainy winds of an Irish November. With few options for replenishment, we stumbled back into the darkness, down the narrow road and entered into McGann’s, the local pub whose cozy warmth and Irish hospitality would keep us returning for the following two nights.

With the luck of the Irish on our side, we arrived just before the kitchen closed, sitting down at a table side fire and enjoying a magical, memorable evening of nourishing food (the best Guinness Beef Stew we’ve had), thirst-quenching pints of “Doolin Ale” and soulful live Irish music that one can only expect in a town that has been deemed the traditional music capital of Ireland.

In the spirit of All Things Irish, we share three recipes below to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Sláinte!

*Rumor has it that Doolin inspired J.R.R. Tolkien in the creation of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

McGann's Pub Doolin Ireland

Beef and Guinness Stew (taken from the Simon Pearce cookbook, A Way of Living)

Ingredients:
2 & 1/2 pounds of beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
3 tbsp. olive oil

Instructions:
Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a large stewpot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and brown the beef in batches, adding 1 tablespoon olive oil to each batch, over medium high heat. Using slotted spoon, remove the beef from the pot and set aside.

3 carrots, peeled and sliced (blanch and set aside)

1 large onion
2-3 cloves garlic
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. flour
1 bottle Guinness Stout
2-3 cups beef stock

Add onions and a small amount of olive oil to the stewpot and cook over medium heat until translucent. Once the onions are caramelized, add garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and cook for 5 minutes. Add flour and mix well. Add the browned beef back to the pot and add the Guinness. Bring to a boil and add beef stock. Bring the mixture back to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 &1/2 hours, or until the beef is tender. Add the carrots and adjust the seasonings before serving.

Guinness Beef Stew Recipe

Oven Roasted Potatoes (taken from the Simon Pearce cookbook, A Way of Living)

Ingredients:
2 pounds small red potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika

Instructions:
Cut potatoes in quarters.  In a bowl, toss potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika. Spread potatoes on a baking sheet in one layer (do not overcrowd). Roast for at least 1 hour in 400 degree F oven or until brown and crisp. Flip twice during cooking to brown every.

Cheddar Chive Scones (taken from the Standard Baking Company’s book Pastries)

Ingredients for the scones:
2 cups flour
1/3 cup Stone-Ground Cornmeal
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, chilled
1 Egg
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
1 & 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese

Ingredients for the topping:
1/4 cup Stone-Ground Cornmeal
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Instructions:
Make the topping by combining the cornmeal, cheese, and pepper and mixing until the texture resembles a course meal. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Break up any remaining lumps with your fingertips. Add the cubed butter and work it into the flour mixture using your fingertips until a few pea-size chunks of butter remain.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and half-and-half. Pour into the flour mixture land, using your hands or a rubber spatula, fold everything together until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Add the chives and cheese and mix until just combined.

With an ice cream scoop, scoop a golf ball-size portion and dip it into the topping mixture to coat. Place on a greased baking sheet with the topping facing up. Repeat with the rest of the dough spacing about 2 inches apart.

Bake in 400 degree F oven for 20-25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 12 minutes for even baking. They will be golden brown and feel firm in the center when done. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

McGann's Pub Doolin Ireland

Chocolate Irish Cream Tart
Enjoy with a cup of delicious Irish coffee with baileys!

Ingredients for the chocolate filling:
1 cup plus 1/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
1/8 cup whiskey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. instant espresso powder
Pinch of Salt
3 eggs, separated
1/3 cup sugar

Ingredients for the ganache:
3 tablespoons Irish Cream liquor
3/4 cup chopped white chocolate
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
Bittersweet chocolate shavings, for garnish

Instructions for the chocolate filling:
Set aside the 1/4 cup of chocolate. Place the remaining chocolate in a medium bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is completely melt. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Whisk in the whiskey. The mixture will be stiff initially, but will become smooth as you continue whisking. Whisk in the vanilla, espresso powder, salt, and yokes. Set aside.

In another bowl beat the egg whites on medium speed until they are frothy and opaque.

Gradually add the sugar, beating until the whites are stiff enough to hold a peak when you lift the whisk out of the mixture.

Gently fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula. Fold in half of the remaining whites, then the reserved 1/4 cup chopped chocolate, followed by the remaining whites.

Spoon the filling into the prepared tart shells, filling them 1/2 inch from the top. Place the filled tarts in the freezer for 2 hours, until firm.

Irish coffee with baileys
McGann’s Baileys Irish Cream Coffee

Instructions for the ganache:
In a small saucepan, heat the Irish cream to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the white chocolate. When the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth, transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool.

When the mixture is completely cool, whisk in the butter. Refrigerate for about 5 minutes, remove from the refrigerator, and which again. Repeat in this manner, whisking until the ganache is light and creamy. Set it aside at room temperature.

For the Tart
Use Pepperidge Farms ready made frozen tarts or use a favorite recipe.

Baking and finishing the tarts:
Bake the tarts in a 350 degree F oven on a baking sheet for about 15-18 minutes. Be sure to rotate the baking sheet after 8 minutes, the filling will have puffed up and started to crack. Let tarts cool and then spoon about a tablespoon of the ganache on each tart and sprinkle with chocolate shavings.